Vol 5, Issue 3, August 2018

Do Dogs Demonstrate Susceptibility to a Vertically Presented Ponzo Illusion?


Byosiere, S-E., Feng, L. C., Wuister, J., Chouinard, P. A., Howell, T. J., & Bennett, P. C. (2018). Do dogs demonstrate susceptibility to a vertically presented Ponzo illusion? Animal Behavior and Cognition, 5(3), 254–267. https://doi.org/10.26451/abc.


One way to uncover visual capabilities in animals is to assess perception of geometric illusions. Recently, we found that dogs did not demonstrate susceptibility to the Ponzo illusion when it was presented in a variety of contexts, a unique result as all other published reports of nonhuman animal species tested on the illusion have demonstrated human-like susceptibility. Two important variables were not considered in our previous study. First, the stimuli were presented horizontally, whereas the more traditional presentation is vertical. Second, it is not known whether dogs can differentiate physical size differences small enough to facilitate perception of the Ponzo illusion. To investigate these issues, we tested the same dogs from our previous study on a vertical version of the Ponzo illusion and on a size discrimination task. Dogs did not demonstrate illusion susceptibility at the group level, although one dog was susceptible. In general, they were better able to detect size differences when the absolute size of the stimuli was large. Nonetheless, with stimuli approximately the same size as those used to test susceptibility to the Ponzo illusion, all eight dogs were able to discriminate between circles that differed in length by 20%, with four discriminating 10% size differences and none able to discriminate 5% differences. These findings suggest that at least some dogs are capable of perceiving the average size difference that humans perceive when observing the Ponzo illusion, but that susceptibility to this illusion is variable and weak, regardless of whether it is presented in either a vertical or horizontal format.


Dog, Ponzo illusion, Two-choice discrimination, Visual perception, Size, Sensitivity